Originally published in The News and Observer
Regarding the Sept. 17 news article “Outcry after Muslim teen is detained over homemade clock”: The possibility of arrest and humiliation, as in the case of high school student Ahmed Mohamed for inventing a clock, has unfortunately become the new normal for the millions of Muslims in the country. It is true that we live in an era of heightened security, but to subject a 14-year-old child to such trauma when he told his engineering teacher about his invention demonstrates that the ongoing Islamophobia is spreading like wildfire in the country.
Islam, like any other religion, can be misinterpreted and misused by people with agendas. Such has been the case with all religions of the world at one time or another. In our own time, ISIS and al-Qaida terror groups are perverting the true teaching of Islam for political gains. There are millions of sound, hard-working and law-abiding American Muslims who categorically reject all forms of violence perpetrated in the name of Islam. Painting every Muslim with the same brush is against the norms of a just and fair society.
Already the Pew Research Center projects that the number of Muslims in the U.S. will more than double in the near future. Tolerance, respect and sound understanding of the Islamic faith will be essential to maintain cohesiveness and peace. Ahmed Mohamed and any other genius child irrespective of race or religion need all the support on earth to showcase extraordinary talents for the benefit of society. Discrimination and humiliation at such a tender age on the basis of religion could cause a child to recoil, to stop trying hard at school and eventually to become frustrated about life in general.
This type of humiliation and intimidation plays into the hands of cold-blooded and barbaric groups like ISIS who are adept at misinformation and prey on the ignorance of marginalized and disillusioned youth for recruitment. There is no denying the fact that terrorist groups with twisted ideologies have killed innocent people, the majority of whom are Muslims. However, we cannot allow ourselves to be intimidated by falling into the rhetoric and propaganda often used to fuel their heinous crimes.
Law-abiding Muslim Americans are human beings like anyone else, and they should be treated equally according to the law of the land. To demonstrate our love for the country and our commitment to humanity, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association has donated several thousands pints of blood for the past five years to honor the 9/11 victims and are involved in several campaigns to help the poor and the needy.
America is a very diverse society and comprises people from all over the world with different cultural and religious affiliations. To single out a section of society on the basis of religious affiliation and subject them to humiliation and bigotry will hold us back on national development and social integration.